The Bills did not punt in either of their wins over the Patriots last season. That’s a stat you’ve probably heard by now as those AFC East rivals prepare to square off on “Thursday Night Football.”
But Bill Belichick was quick to point out Monday that Buffalo almost did so once.
During an interview with WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” Belichick said New England nearly forced the Bills to punt on the opening drive of their Week 16 loss last season but were burned by a fake.
“I mean, we had them in punt formation on the first series of the game in the second game and gave up a fake punt,” Belichick said. “So, I wouldn’t really put that on the defense. But regardless, they moved the ball consistently against us. We certainly didn’t make them punt in the playoff game.”
It was a strange and uncharacteristic “yeah, but” from the Patriots head coach. It also was not accurate.
The Bills never sent out their punt team in their 33-21 victory at Gillette Stadium last December. They did face one fourth down on their opening drive, but that was from the Patriots’ 3-yard line, and Josh Allen hit Isaiah McKenzie for a touchdown. Buffalo later faced fourth downs from New England’s 7-, 1-, 39-, 16- and 34-yard lines and either went for it or kicked a field goal in all five instances.
The Patriots were victimized by a Bills fake punt in a recent lopsided loss. But that came a year earlier, late in the 2020 season.
If Belichick was trying to highlight that the Patriots’ defense forced the Bills into several fourth-down scenarios in last year’s regular-season loss, then sure, he has a point there. They certainly did a better job of that than they did in their subsequent postseason matchup, during which Buffalo never faced a single fourth down as it rolled to a 47-17 rout. But that’s a pretty low bar to clear.
With their Mac Jones-led offense yet to prove it can win a high-scoring shootout — Jones is 0-9 in his career, including playoffs, when the opponent scores at least 25 points — the Patriots desperately need a stronger defensive performance this week.